The starboard propeller of the crippled Cook Strait ferry Aratere has been raised from its temporary Cook Strait seabed home on the same day the ship returned to freight-only service.
Earlier today the Brandywine, a small former US military landing craft, winched the 6.5 tonne propeller and shaft from the seabed 123 metres below the surface outside Tory Channel.
Aratere lost its starboard propeller during a routine sailing from Picton to Wellington on the night of Tuesday, November 5.
KiwiRail chief executive Jim Quinn said the successful raising of the propeller represented another step towards solving a puzzle which would hopefully be of use to Transport Accident Investigation Commission investigators.
TAIC officials are expected to take possession of and transport the propeller to a Seaview workshop when the salvage vessel Brandywine returns to Wellington Harbour tomorrow morning.
Seaworks Ltd International Marine Contractors chief executive Steve MacIntyre said the remote controlled submarine wrapped four strops around the severed shaft and propeller and hoisted it up to the surface.
"We're heading down Queen Charlotte Sound now with the propeller about eight metres underneath us. We're not on dry land yet. We've got to crane it up on to the deck in Picton and get it back to Wellington.
"We expect to get back with the propeller about 6 in the morning," Mr Macintyre said.
Weather conditions were almost perfect for the lift, with a light southerly breeze and a three-quarter metre seaswell.
As Brandywine headed to Picton the Aratere was completing its first single-engine freight-only round trip between Wellington and Picton.
It sailed from Picton just before 9am this morning and was in Wellington Harbour shortly before 3pm.
Greater Wellington Regional Council harbourmaster Captain Mike Pryce and Marlborough District Council harbourmaster Captain Alex Van Wijngaarden ensured navigation and safety issues were addressed in their respective harbours before allowing Aratere to return to sea early this morning..
Aratere has been tied up at Wellington's Aotea Quay for more than a month.
"We also insisted on putting in place several safeguards for the environment by reducing the risks of any unfortunate incidents," Mr Pryce said.
Aratere will be replaced on the Picton Wellington run by the European owned charter vessel Stena Alegra. Its delivery voyage is progressing well.
Stena Alegra entered the Caribbean Sea yesterday via the Mona Passage between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic and is due to arrive at the Caribbean end of Panama Canal tomorrow.
It is expected to arrive in Wellington by the end of the month.
- © Fairfax NZ News